Virgin starts 200Mbps broadband trials

Virgin starts 200Mbps broadband trials

Summary: Around 100 'pilot customers' will take part in a trial of the high-speed broadband, which is four times faster than the company's current fastest fat pipe service


Cable broadband purveyor Virgin Media has upped the ante by announcing a trial of 200Mbps broadband — four times faster than its current fastest fat pipe service.

The company said it will use the trial to assess the commercial viability of deploying a 200Mbps service in the UK and to investigate the kind of applications consumers could use regularly in such a speedy future.

Around 100 'pilot customers' will eventually be involved in the trial, which started last week in Ashford, Kent, and will run for at least six months. The ISP claims it is the fastest implementation of DOCSIS3 technology (Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification) in the world — faster even than cable services in Japan and the US, which have 160Mbps and 101Mbps, respectively.

Possible next-gen broadband apps could include HD and 3D TV entertainment services, remote delivery of IT support to home users, videoconferencing and home surveillance, according to the ISP.

At the end of last year, Virgin launched its current fastest 50Mbps service — still the fastest consumer broadband service available in the UK. However, BT has been making noise on the speed front - pledging to roll out fibre to 10 million homes by 2012, enabling speeds of up to 100Mbps and opening up the possibility that Virgin could be lose its headline-speed crown.

Ian Fogg, principal analyst at Forrester Research, told ZDNet UK's sister site that while he doesn't believe Virgin will be offering a commercial 200Mbps service anytime soon, the company is nevertheless firing "a shot across the bows" of DSL providers to let them know it has more to offer.

"Virgin Media is clearly positioning around the speed of its broadband service and they're looking to make hay while the speeds of their rivals using DSL are limited by the copper telephone line," said Fogg.

"Virgin Media are shaking up the UK broadband market. They're looking to increase [consumer] dissatisfaction with speed."

But the analyst said the trial is not just about posturing: "There's a genuine piece of work to be done here," he said, adding: "It's all very well testing something in the lab but actually giving even a small number of consumers this service into their homes will deliver different information, different feedback."

One area where the trial could well shine a light in Fogg's view are on 'bottlenecks' lurking elsewhere in the network.

"You get a point where the web servers, the general speed of the internet becomes the bottleneck, not the connection into someone's house. And I would expect that 200Mbps would reveal those bottlenecks elsewhere," he said.

"How fast a particular service is depends on all sorts of things — the speed of the web server to deliver the web page, the speed of the connection of that web server on to the internet, the connection across the internet, the connection through that internet service provider's network and then there's the connection into the house… and of course there's the connection inside the house."

Fogg added that Wi-Fi routers can't currently support 200Mbps — so wireless home networks would also constrain users' speed dreams.

Topics: Broadband, Networking

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  • Broadband Cravasse Opening up.

    A 2MB rural Broadband target is just going along with what will already occur through market forces even if they didn't spend money on all these quangos, promoting universal coverage - its pathetic. (Just by removing out-dated equipment from the cities and re-locating it rurally).

    If we are going to keep any high value jobs- Broadband must have a level playing field across the UK. Universal coverage of 200Mbps is a dream, but probably a necessary one.

    My approach initially would be Rural Hotpots - certains towns are strategically subsidised to match the highest Broadband levels available in London. This would allow people to live within their surroundings they know - but work/live closeby - being able to run a business on an equal footing to other parts of the UK, specifically London. But this needs to backed up by mobile coverage too, traveling between strategic towns needs full coverage too.

    Carphone (now owning Tiscali) / BT are working together on fibre rollout - both these companies have shown that without public pressure/subsidies they will/want to cherrypick the best business for maximum profits.

    Ofcom realising there is no money to back up their bark - appease BT/Carphone at best - hoping to save face by having at least some fibre rollout. Its not as though they can say 'Well if you don't like it we will roll out a public/national network - there is just no public money on the table to back up their 'bite'.

    Past experience it appears BT (in the roll out of ADSL) that it looks for subsidies first before the idea of taking finanical gamble/risk with their own money - and will justify the 'cherry pick' approach rather than univeral roll-out. I still wonder if we would be sitting in the doldrums if it wasn't for sites like, having online partitions / a co-ordinated response.

    But certain areas where large subsidies were paid have had some of the highest adoption rates, where it was rolled-out, because rurally/regionally, its a necessity.
  • ...and the upload speed?

    As a Virgin Media customer I'm very satisfied with their broadband service... but upload speed has always been an issue...

    This is the limiting factor for me when it comes to peer-to-peer video (Skype, Messenger, etc.)... I don't often see (like never) headline grabbing on the upload side...

    Maybe this is the next service offering battleground?